Residents of La Plata, Maryland are going to experience the benefits of solar, thanks to the construction of the 27.5 megawatt Ripley Solar facility. The new project, slated to come onine in mid-2019, will help rural co-op Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) fulfill its obligation to a state mandated 2.5 percent solar carve-out by 2020.
Maryland’s solar carve-out requirements for utilities are part of the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard for Solar Energy and Solar Water Heating Systems bill, signed into law by former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in 2012. The bill mandated that utilities throughout Maryland purchase 1.15 percent of their total energy portfolio from solar projects by 2017 and 2.5 percent by 2020. The bill was designed to maintain positive job growth, help eliminate industry boom and bust cycles and increase energy choices for low-income customers.
That and the passing of the Clean Energy Jobs Act by the state legislature earlier this year—overiding Gov. Larry Hogan's (R)—and the implementation a 200 MW, three-year community solar pilot program has kick-started solar development across the state. For instance, approximately 277 megawatts of Maryland’s 717 megawatts of solar were installed during 2016. An additional 2,021 megawatts of solar are now expected to be installed in the state over the next five years, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
This new project will almost double SMECO’s solar capacity. The co-op will purchase all the power the project generates under a 25-year power purchase agreement with Origis Energy, owner and operator of the facility. "By purchasing more renewable energy, SMECO is demonstrating environmental leadership, sustainable energy generation responsibility and facilitating grid reliability. We are most pleased to help SMECO provide its customers with clean, solar generated energy for many years to come,” said Origis Energy CEO Guy Vanderhaegen.
The solar farm’s construction, pending approval from the Maryland Public Service Commission, is expected to begin in early 2019 and will employ 150 workers. The Ripley Solar Farm is expected cover 300 acres and consist of 86,000 thin-film photovoltaic panels on single axis mounts. A transmission line will bring solar generated electricity from the project to the nearest substation to save on transmission fees and increase grid efficiency and reliability.
"Ripley Solar is the third solar project that National Renewables Cooperative Organization has facilitated for SMECO, and their expertise has been invaluable. Developing solar projects right here in our service area gives us a couple of advantages. Not only are we able to procure renewable energy to help meet state requirements, but we are also able to avoid costly transmission fees,” said Austin J. Slater, Jr., SMECO's president and CEO.Tweet